Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Greatest Red Wings of MY Time - #13

Well, according to all accounts, the Modano signing is as good as done. There's supposed to be a presser or something like that on Friday, and I'm pretty sure it's not going to be about how he decided to sign somewhere else, and I don't think the Wings would hold one to announce his retirement. I'm not as giddy as some people are about this, but I don't hate the move either. I think it's a good depth signing, and if he can put up 40 points (15 goals, 25 assists) and stay healthy, it's a successful year. After that, it's Helm and Abby, and then we should have a very good picture of what your 2010-11 Detroit Red Wings are going to look like. I'm anticipating that tomorrow is going to be an extremely busy day for Red Wing bloggers as we all weigh in with our opinion after the signing becomes "official".

We continue our series today, and I know what you're thinking: "3 days in a row. What are you, Malik or Drew from NOHS?" Like I said yesterday, I want to get through the series quickly so that we can work on previews of the upcoming season, plus I've got an idea about rankings for the rest of the NHL (more on that later). Without further ado, let's see who got the (unlucky) 13th spot on my list.

Bob Probert

Pertinent Stats: 474 GP, 114 G, 145 A, 259 P, - 12, 2090 PIM
Awards: None

We're all aware of the tragic and untimely passing of Probie almost a month ago, so we're not going to go into that again. We're here today to talk about his career as a Red Wing.

The funny thing about Probert is that he was drafted the same year as Yzerman. I can't think of two guys drafted in the same year that had a significant impact on the franchise, yet were complete opposites in how they played the game. Unlike Yzerman, Probert started off in the AHL before joining the team in 1985-86. When he became a regular, he immediately started to rack up the penalty minutes, totalling 185 PIM in only 44 games (to put it in perspective, not a single Wing had more than 80 PIM this past season). In 1987-88 he amassed a mind-boggling 398 PIM (still a Red Wing record), and trust me, these were not for hooking and tripping guys. Probert's job, in his eyes, was simple: he was a fighter, and a damn good one. There were the numerous fights with Tie Domi; the battles with Troy Crowder; and this epic fight with Marty McSorely in his last season as a Red Wing:

He paired together with Joey Kocur to form the "Bruise Brothers", and they definitely contused a lot of players over the course of their careers. I can still remember a picture from the Toronto Star showing Wendel Clark sandwiched between Kocur and Probert, and I was surprised that none of them were bleeding. And he didn't save his knuckle sandwiches for just opponents, either; there was the celebrated fight in practice with Keith Primeau in 1994.

Despite his noted fighting abilities, he wasn't half-bad offensively, either. In the aforementioned 87-88 season, he was able to score 29 goals and tie for third in points on the team with 62. That's impressive considering he spent the equivalent of almost 7 games in the penalty box. He played in his first and only All-Star Game that year, and he continued his scoring in the playoffs as he scored 8 goals and 21 points in 16 games, helping the Wings get to the Conference Finals (only to be obliterated by the Oilers). Over the course of his career, if you throw out his rookie season and 1989-90 (we'll get to that in a second), he averaged over 30 points a year.

1989-90. Probert was arrested trying to get into the US with drugs, and he was arrested for cocaine possession. He was ultimately convicted of the charges, and spent 3 months in prison. He was suspended for the entire 1989-90 season, only playing in 4 games (and scoring 3 goals). I'll admit, I don't think it's a coincidence that this was the last time the Wings missed the playoffs. I also remember that for a while, he was not able to cross into Canada, so I didn't get to see him when they played the Leafs.

After the 93-94 season, Probert was not offered a contract, and he became a FA. He went on to sign with Little Brother, and spent quite a few years there. There are very few things that Hawk and Wing fans can agree on, but it's safe to say we all felt the same with Probie's passing.

I can say without question that Probert was the toughest guy I have ever seen wear the Winged Wheel, and outside of Kocur, there isn't anyone else even close. He is still the PIM leader in Red Wing history with 2,090. He also had skill, as evidenced by his ability to score 259 points in six and a half seasons. I think that together with Yzerman, he represented '80s hockey. Back then, fighting was not only accepted, it was cheered to a degree that is not present today. It was okay for someone like Probert to fight a guy who took liberties with the star players. Like Semenko in Edmonton protecting Gretzky, Probert believed his job was to protect Yzerman, and he did it with vigor and enthusiasm. This is one of the reasons that besides Yzerman, Probert routinely received the loudest and longest ovations from Red Wing Nation. So, RIP Probie. You're #13 on the list of Greatest Red Wings of My Time.

1 comment:

  1. Fitting number on your list for Probie. That clip has undoubtedly been viewed 1000s of times over the last month. To me it says Probert through and through...epic fight ending with mutual respect....something too many players today need to get a lot more of.